Easy Steps Families and Seniors Can Take to Prevent Falls at Home

Whether you are concerned about your own fall risk or that of a loved one, there are proactive steps you can take to decrease the likelihood of a fall at any age.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that falls impact one out of every three seniors. In fact, seniors are five times more likely to be hospitalized from a fall-related injury than from any other cause. Of those who fall, only half discuss the fall with their health care provider. As a result, fall-related injuries often go untreated.

The CDC’s statistics might be frightening, but they don’t have to be. Changes in exercise, clear communication during medical checkups and simple changes in the home can all greatly reduce the risk of falls.

The reasons behind falls are many and complex, and not limited simply to age. The three main causes of falls are rooted in medical, balance and environmental factors.

Fall risks can increase if a person has an adverse reaction to a medication, lives with a chronic or undiagnosed medical condition or experiences changes in vision and gait that can make typical objects in the home unsafe.

There are a variety of ways to reduce the medical risks that can result in falling. For starters, make sure a doctor reviews all medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) to identify potential side effects that can lead to dizziness or light-headedness. At the same time, ask your health care provider to check your loved one’s vision, as cataracts and poor depth perception can lead to a fall. Another thing to look out for is muscle weakness in the legs and numbness in the feet. A physician can recommend exercises to improve gait, mobility, strength and coordination.

Regardless of existing medical problems that could increase the likelihood of falling, everyone should work to reduce the environmental risks for falls in the home. Consider such easy solutions as making sure rooms are well lit (include nightlights in the bedroom and bathroom), ensuring there are working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the home and clearing the home and garden of excess clutter. Other simple fixes involve installing grab bars in the bathroom (specifically in the shower and near the toilet) and evaluating a senior’s ability to prepare food.

With each room offering its own set of perils, assessing fall risks in the home can be overwhelming. The best practice is to go room by room in your evaluation.

The costs of making these small adjustments to the home far outweigh the potential costs associated with a fall. By just one account, according to the CDC, the cost of falls totaled $30 billion in 2010 and is projected to reach $54.9 billion by 2020. On a more personalized level, the average cost of a fall is $17,500. Subsequent hip fractures, the most frequent type of fall-related fracture, are expected to cost Medicare $240 billion by 2040.

The best way to prevent a fall is to be proactive. Consider signing up for a yoga or Tai Chi class to improve balance, or contact Homewatch CareGivers today for a free in-home assessment and Guide to In-Home Senior Safety. Ultimately, small steps taken today can prevent a fall tomorrow.

Homewatch CareGivers is an international home care company that provides customized personal assistance to people of all ages including seniors, people with disabilities and chronic conditions and patients discharged from the hospital or other skilled facilities. The company is known for its in-home safety and dementia care expertise. To learn more, please visit http://www.homewatchcaregivers.com.

Article written by Jennifer Tucker, vice president, Homewatch CareGivers


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